Bisphenol A, found in plastic items such as drinking bottles, causes reproductive-system defects in animals; so do flame retardants and phthalates used in fragrances, lotions, vinyl and other products. The risks to human health aren't well documented, however - and even less is known about the compound effects of chemical cocktails in the body.
People have reason to be concerned about potential toxicants and allergens in their homes, according to Tim Takaro, a physician scientist and professor in health sciences at Simon Fraser University.
"When the science is in flux," he says, "oftentimes we need to adopt a precautionary approach."Here are some tips to improve home health:
Air quality Equip furnace with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter or the cheaper 3M Filtrete filter. Use kitchen and bathroom fans regularly. Open all windows once a day to air out house. Avoid indoor pesticide use and chemical-based carpet cleaning.
Humidity Test relative humidity; if necessary, use dehumidifiers and damp-proof the basement and exterior foundation wall to prevent mould growth.
Drinking water Test for minerals such as lead; if necessary, replace pipes and install a water filter.
Bedding Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in dust-mite barriers. If possible, invest in organic bedding.
Carpets Replace with tile, hardwood or non-toxic wool carpeting. Otherwise, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Decorating Buy paints that contain minimal VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Use cloth curtains instead of vinyl.
Candles Since most candles are petroleum-based and about 10 per cent have lead-core wicks, switch to pure beeswax candles
Cleaning products Replace generic air fresheners, furniture polishes, laundry products and household cleaners with non-toxic products made by companies such as Nature Clean Living
Personal-care products Avoid soaps and shampoos containing synthetic fragrances and chemicals. Replace cosmetics with mineral-based formulas free of carcinogens and petrochemicals. Use pure essential oils instead of perfume.
Kitchenware Replace non-stick pans with ceramic or cast iron. Replace plastic storage containers with glass vessels and plastic drinking bottles with lightweight metal bottles. ::Globe and Mail